Positive oil data set to drive Irish exploration
Positive recent newsflow and a renewed interest in the potential of the Republic’s territorial waters are likely to drive an increase in oil exploration off the Irish coast.
A number of the oil industry’s majors, including ENI, Kosmos, Repsol, Shell and Total, sent delegates to this year’s Atlantic Ireland conference in Dublin yesterday.
News such as the announcement that Providence, a conference sponsor, has found commercial quantities of oil and gas in Barryroe off the Cork coast, piqued their interest.
“Ireland is interesting again,” Paul Griffiths of Fastnet Oil Gas, said. Along with the good news, the Republic’s geology is making big players pay attention to what’s happening here.
The State’s territorial waters include a large slice of the Atlantic margin, the point where the continental shelf meets the ocean. Europe, Africa and the Americas were once joined along this margin, before drifting apart to form the modern continents.
This line includes recent big discoveries such as the Jubilee Field off the west African coast, which Irish company Tullow operates. That is due to produce 90,000 barrels of oil a day by the end of the year.
New prospects found off the South American coast mirror this. Others are emerging further north, off Newfoundland, which sits due west of Ireland.
Fastnet chairman Cathal Friel noted that, as the margins at either side of the Atlantic were once part of the same geological structures, exploration companies believe they should share the same characteristics, including oil and gas reservoirs.
“You’ve got Africa, you have Norway and the North Sea, and now people are saying, ‘What about the bit in between?’ That’s Ireland,” he said. This may work in theory, but what about practice? Mr Griffiths said that the only way to find out is to drill.
Fergus O’Dowd, Minister of State at the Department of Natural Resources, said in his speech that recent activity has been low, but the results have been positive.
Next year, ExxonMobil will begin work on its prospect in the Porcupine Basin, off the west coast, and Chrysaor is due to start drilling at Spanish Point, off the south coast.
Mr O’Dowd acknowledged a lack of data was holding up exploration. Next year, in partnership with Italian energy multinational ENI, his department will begin a comprehensive seismic survey.